Big Prairie Ranger Station

Flathead National Forest Backcountry Administrative Facilities Historic District

An USFS administrative headquarters since 1908, Big Prairie primarily operated only in summer, but a small tombstone, marked “Roush Daughter,” provides a reminder of winter hardships. The two-year-old’s father, stationed here with his wife, tended USFS livestock in winter 1923-24. He traveled 100 miles to Missoula on snowshoes to seek medical advice after the girl fell ill. She died before his return. In 1928, the USFS built the first airstrip here. In 1932 it moved the airfield closer to existing buildings, including the still extant 1916 office/residence. Shortly thereafter, the USFS situated its new combination office, kitchen, mess hall, and warehouse, so that planes could taxi up to the warehouse porch. It soon added a ranger’s house, meat house, second small warehouse, and a consciously Rustic-style bunkhouse, designed by USFS architect William Fox. The tongue-and-groove “chute loft,” so-called because smoke-jumpers hung their parachutes here before packing them, was added circa 1942. At its peak, the district had 850 miles of phone lines. Forty-five miles of lines remain, as do “iron phones” along the South Fork Trail.

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Bob Marshalll Wilderness, Hungry Horse, Montana ~ Public